The Cockney Tickells from London’s East End

Although there are few records of Tickells in London in the late 17th century, there are several in the 18th century.

18th Century London

During the 18th century the population of London increased rapidly. It reached 750,000 in the middle of the century, making it the largest city in Europe. By the end of the century it was home to almost a million people, about a tenth of the whole population of Great Britain.. There are a few scattered Tickell baptisms in the early part of the century, but several more in the second half. Are these Tickells descendants of those who were there earlier or new arrivals from elsewhere in the country?

London expanded to accommodate its rising population. The old city gates were removed in the mid 18th century. Areas such as Westminster, to the west of the city, were extensively developed, with elegant townhouses for wealthy aristocrats in Mayfair. As the city grew, it encompassed villages which had previously been located in rural areas and they became part of an urban sprawl. This housing, for the majority of poorer Londoners, was still basic, but various Acts of Parliament improved the conditions from those in the 17th century.  Streets were required to have pavements, drainage, and to be swept regularly. Street lighting was more extensive than in any other city in Europe, something which amazed foreign visitors to the capital in the late 18th century.

The image at the top of this post was taken in 1902, so slightly after the 18th century. I haven’t been able to locate any earlier images of the East End,, apart from those of William Hogarth’s Gin Lane and others (Gin Lane was in St Giles where several Tickells were born, but I don’t think his painting represents their way of life …)

There are records of some Tickells in Westminster and Kensington. I believe these are connected to the Tickells of Carnolway, who would doubtless have had a ‘town house’ in London. However, the majority of Tickells are found in areas such as Bermondsey, Lambeth, Poplar, and Tower Hamlets – former villages which now formed part of London’s ‘East End’

The East End

This area of London (famous nowadays from the TV soap ‘Eastenders’) lies to the east of the old city walls and north of the River Thames. In the 18th century, the East End became a hub of tradesmen and small manufacturers. Many of the businesses involved ‘dirty’ industries – manufacturing processes that were noxious or dangerous, such as tanning, lead making, tallow works, slaughterhouses, breweries, and gunpowder production. Its position outside the city walls and downwind to the east meant that the fumes from the East End wouldn’t affect the richer people living to the west.

The growth of manufacturing in the area led to many job opportunities and a big influx of workers. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a simultaneous increase in housing. By the end of the century the East End had become notorious for deep poverty, overcrowded housing, and associated social problems such as gang violence and crime.


The East End of London is the home of the ‘Cockney’. A true Cockney is someone who was born within the sound of Bow bells – the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside. These can be heard in many of the places where we find our Tickells at this time. Cockneys have a distinctive accent and dialect. They are known for using rhyming slang. Although the area is now multicultural, you’ll still find people using this special slang. It was very common at the time I was growing up and had relations in London and many expressions have passed into the vocabulary of non-cockneys. If you don’t understand what sayings such as ‘having a butcher’s’, ‘using your crust (or loaf)’, ‘not a dicky bird’, or ‘he half-inched it’ mean, you can find plenty of examples on the internet such as on this page.

William James Tickell

One of the members of the Tickle/Tickell DNA project can trace his ancestry back to William James Tickell, b. 1764 in London. William James was baptised at St Botolph without Bishopsgate. Bishopsgate was one of the eastern gates in the original city wall. He married Ann Scott on 3 September 1786 at St George in the East, Tower Hamlets. William James was a cordwainer. This is an old English term for a shoemaker, derived from the French word for shoe-maker, cordonnier. A cordwainer made new shoes, as opposed to a cobbler, who mended old ones.

In 1811, the London Gazette shows William at 136 Ratcliffe Highway. Known as ‘The Highway’, this was a road dating back to Roman times, that had a reputation for vice and crime. In that same year, it was the location of the infamous Ratcliff Highway murders, which I will describe in my next post.

William James and Ann had at least 9 children, many of them born or christened in Stepney or Bethnal Green. I have much more research to do on the family and will write about them in due course.

Other Tickells in 18th Century London

I have many months, of research left to do on the London Tickells. So far, I have identified seven Tickell families living in London in the 18th century. Some of these may be related to each other but I have not been able to establish that to date. Here are those for which I have some data – more to come eventually.

Thomas Tickell b.abt. 1700, and his wife, Mary, with 2 known children.

John Tickell b.1708, and his wife, Elizabeth Wills b.1709, with 2 known children.

Robert Tickell b. abt. 1720, and his wife, Mary, with 4 known children.

John Nathan Tickell b.abt. 1740, and his wife, Martha, with 3 known children.

Henry Tickell b.1755, and his wife, Dorothy b.1756,, with 11 known children.

William James Tickell b.1764 (see above), and his wife, Ann Scott, with 9 known children.

Richard Tickell b.abt 1790, and his wife, Jane Virgo, with 2 known children.

There are also isolated individuals bearing the surname who I haven’t as yet been able to tie into a family. Later in the century, a few other Tickells pop up who were born elsewhere in England, such as Devon, Cornwall, or Lancashire.

If you are descended from any Tickells in the London area, do please get in touch with me and let me know what you know about your ancestry.

2 thoughts on “The Cockney Tickells from London’s East End”

  1. Jennifer Anderson

    Good morning I am a direct descendent of William James Tickell through his son Charles baptised 6th December 1789 at St George in the East. Charles married Nancy Kelly on 15 March 1812 at St Dunstans Stepney they had 8 children. I am a descendent of their son Samuel born 11 November 1821 at Back Road Shadwell. He married Jane Edwards and their son William Tickell who was born 11/10/1852 at Hoxton came to Australia. He was a member of the Royal Navy in England prior to coming to Australia with his family about 1900.
    I have document evidence which I am happy to share
    Regards Jennifer Anderson

    1. Hello Jennifer
      Thank you for contacting me. I have some information on this family in the genealogy section. Please let me know if it corresponds to your records. I will send you an email.
      Best wishes

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